Psssst. You, over there. Got a mother? Or, better yet, are you a mother? In this time of "divide and conquer" politics, I can say with absolute certainty that we all have one thing in common. Mothers. And that one thing in common is in trouble.
While our national political dialogue has been looking every which way but home, domestic issues (in every sense of the word) have been pushed back by the big guns. Literally.
In our modern economy almost three-quarters of mothers are employed, but our workplace and public policies haven't caught up with moms yet. Working toward common sense family-friendly policies like those covered in the book, The Motherhood Manifesto, and addressed by the new organization MomsRising.org, will help all families. And this type of work is greatly needed.
How do I know this? In 1996 I became a mother. I was the first in my group of friends to do so, and was getting an up close and personal lesson about the economic and time crunch that comes with such a leap. I started wondering, how do other moms patch together caring for family and work? What's really going on with mothers right now?
I had my daughter several years later, and those same questions just wouldn't go away. Everyone I knew was winging it. I wanted the big picture.
As a numbers junkie, my first probing call in the mid-90s was to the the U.S. Census. How many moms were staying home with children? What were moms doing in America? Well, they didn't have answers. They don't track those issues. And neither, by the way, does the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was a starting point for me, and also a symptom of a far greater problem--the invisible, uncounted, and unrecognized struggles of modern mothers. After all, what isn't seen or counted must not be happening, right?
The very personal became political as I realized what I was experiencing as a mother was actually part of a larger shared problem. All the national talk about "family values" had little to do with addressing issues regular families, and mothers, face each day--like how to pay for child care, or how to afford being a full-time parent; like the lack of paid family leave, flexible work options, after school care, and a failing health care system. I was appalled. And, I started writing. In fact, it's safe to say that motherhood brought me into writing.
A key point I found is that the rising "mommy wage gap"--an indication of how far the U.S. is from supporting families--can be fixed. (One study found that women without children make 90 cents to a man's dollar, moms make 73 cents, and single moms make 56 to 66 cents to a man's dollar). But in fact, studies show the mommy wage gap has significantly narrowed in other countries where family policies and programs such as those suggested in The Motherhood Manifesto are implemented.
Paid family leave, flexible work options, subsidized health care, and affordable childcare don't just make it easier for parents to get through the work week, such programs also "raise all boats" by fixing the economic undermining that comes with motherhood. I truly believe positive changes can happen here in the United States. They've already happened elsewhere.
It's long past time to address solutions to the time and economic crunch that comes with having a family in America. Join us at MomsRising.org. Together we can make a difference.
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